The NBA draft is rapidly approaching, and Quin Snyder’s Utah Jazz are coming off a great season. General manager Dennis Lindsey will look to add a player to help this team get to the next level.
After watching the playoffs, having versatile defenders and good shooters is the best. There are two players who jump off the page who deserve an extra look: France’s Elie Okobo and Maryland’s Kevin Huerter.
Okobo is a 20-year-old point guard who has been playing for Pau-Orthez in the top-tier professional basketball league in France. Last season, he averaged 13.9 points, 4.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds. His standout skill is his ability to score. He averaged 41.3 percent from behind the arc and has an effective field goal percentage of 59.5. Last year, the Jazz liked Okobo enough to bring him in for a workout.
He was then a late second-round prospect and decided to withdraw from the draft. He worked on his game over the past season and is now a lock to be selected in the first round. After this last workout with the Jazz, Okobo stated, "They (Utah Jazz) said I was a good player, but I had to work on my body, my physicality and my defense. Since that moment, I think I've improved a lot, because of this season, my experience and working hard. I think I'm better now."
The Ringer's NBA Draft Guide written by Kevin O’Conner states that Okobo is an “impressive shooter off the dribble. He uses step-backs, pull-ups and sidesteps to get his shot off. It’s like he’s mimicking James Harden. … (He) is a good spot-up shooter who has potential to hit shots off screens if he focuses on mastering his footwork.”
During a French league playoff game in May, he went off for 44 points on just 17 shots. He did this while being guarded by Aaron Craft, who had a brief stop in the NBA. The Jazz could use someone like Okobo to help ease the scoring burden that has been placed on Donovan Mitchell.
Walt Perrin, Jazz vice president of player personnel, said after the workout, "Smooth offensively, pretty good shooter, handles it pretty well. Tough to see certain stuff 3-on-3 as whether he's a point guard. He had a pretty good workout and probably has to improve his defense." Okobo grew up playing shooting guard, but due to his size, he is transforming into a point guard.
KSL’s Andy Larsen wrote, “I'll be honest, I like Okobo a lot. I think he shows a lot of NBA-ready skills, from an already very good pull-up jumper from midrange and the 3-point line to impressive vision and decision-making for a 20-year-old. He varies his pace well, too. He's not good defensively, though. He sometimes shows enough on that end that you think maybe it's an effort issue, but clearly, he'll need to bring it on more possessions at the NBA level than he did in France.”
One of his weaknesses is on defense. Okobo is a good athlete, so he should be able to defend. On a team led by Rudy Gobert and coached by Quin Snyder, effort on the defensive end is a must (just ask Trey Lyles). Okobo has good size for a point guard, measuring 6-foot-3, 180 pounds and has a wingspan of 6-foot-8. At this size, he will be able to guard multiple positions defensively (with more effort). Plus the Jazz have had success in drafting French-born players.
Huerter is the other intriguing prospect in this draft. He is 19 years old and has spent two seasons at Maryland. There he averaged 14.8 points, 5 rebounds and 3.4 assists. The skill he brings into the NBA is his ability to shoot. O’Conner compared him to a “discount Klay Thompson.” NBC’s Chase Hughes’ player comparison for Huerter is Kyle Korver. In two seasons at Maryland, he shot 39.4 percent from 3-point land (taking five a game) and had an effective field goal percentage of 61.6. O’Conner summarized Huerter’s skillset: “A sharpshooting wing with range from deep and a feel for playmaking.”
At 6-foot-7, he has ideal height for a wing player who can guard multiple positions but needs to add muscle to his 194-pound frame to be able to guard stronger players and finish in traffic. Huerter isn’t an elite defender but works hard and can fit well into a team’s defensive scheme.
At the beginning of the draft process, Huerter wasn’t sure he would keep his name in the draft but after a strong performance at the NBA Combine, ESPN reported, “The 6-foot-7 wing impressed scouts at the combine not just with his ability to shoot the ball but also his passing and athleticism. He was near the top of the charts in several testing categories.”2 comments on this story
During his team workouts, Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo reported, “Word around the league tonight is that Maryland’s Kevin Huerter has obtained a promise from a team drafting in the first round, certainly a helpful factor in his decision process.”
Both of these players are young and probably won’t be huge contributors to one of the top teams in the West this season (not everyone can be Mitchell). They both have an NBA skill that should translate, good size for their positions and are young with upside. Drafting late in the first round, teams don’t often find All-Stars, but both these guys have a solid chance to be a rotational player in the NBA, and that is what the Jazz need.